Inclusive Development Archives - SASDI Alliance

What difference does saving make to the urban and rural poor?

By FEDUP, Savings No Comments

How can saving impact poor communities and influence inclusive development practice? On a recent visit to Manchester’s Global Development Institute FEDUP’s Patrick Matsemela responds to these questions by telling his story: 

 “When I say I was a robber, it was because I had nothing to do. When the Federation (FEDUP) started, I collected scrap metal from aluminium trollies. One day I found a group of mamas sitting together and someone told me that those mamas save R1.50 on a daily basis and deposit savings into a joint account. I did not have R50 so I knew I couldn’t open my own bank account. But I thought, “If I put money in with these mamas, they will use the money.” I thought that these people were scamming.
Patrick Matsemela (front centre) with SA SDI Alliance and Manchester colleagues

Patrick Matsemela (front centre) with SA SDI Alliance and Manchester colleagues

 At the time I was a heavy smoker. One cigarette cost R1. I had to save to smoke. Or steal to fuel my addiction. I asked people, “What happens with these savings? Do I get it back or is it just a show?”
They explained that you can request to withdraw the amount you saved by going to the savings collectors and treasurers of your savings group. This was better than the bank! Through joining a savings group I learnt to put money together and come together with other people. The moment you share your problem with friends you create a society. For example, if I did not eat, I could sit together with other savers and put money and food together. Over time I became rehabilitated from being a heavy smoker and drinker.
The leaders of these savings groups are women, about 95%. Men cannot save, that’s true. But women savers are very strict. They don’t play; they are professionals. For example, you can only withdraw what you saved. We are illiterate but still people were talking about bank charges.
My trust in the savings group increased because of my savings book and the record book of the savings collector. Every time I gave my savings to the collector, both of us needed to sign my savings book and the collector’s record book to prove that the money was collected. As a savings group we chose people living inside our community to be the collector, treasurer and secretary of our group. Saving is not only about collecting money but also asking people about their feelings. For example, the collector asks you how you are, why you didn’t attend the savings meeting last night.

Report back on savings at a FEDUP network meeting in North West province

But there is no way to get everything correct. Mismanagement is a challenge. In some groups, the collector takes R10 saying, ‘Let me just use it now, tomorrow I will pay it back’. But then when the audit comes and other savings group treasurers come to your group to do the books and audit they ask why this was not recorded. The treasurer then feels the heat. Stealing is a bad word. Do not say steal, otherwise you won’t build a person. Rather whisper to the person and ask, “How will you repay?” First approach the individual who misused the savings, then the group. Sometimes we can call the police or influence some people in the community to take the person’s TV. Or we come as a group and hire a buggy and take the fridge and TV. We are not going to sell it but the person knows they can find us in the savings meeting.”
Since the early 1990s, FEDUP has used saving as a key tool to build a strong urban and rural poor social movement. Currently FEDUP counts about 43 900 members in eight provinces in South Africa. Through collective saving and critical mass, FEDUP played a key role in advocating for the People’s Housing Process (PHP). The PHP is a milestone policy on inclusive (community-led) human settlements development. Patrick Matsemela joined the Federation in 1998. He is currently the national coordinator for FEDUP saving networks in the North West province. He serves on the board of Slum Dwellers International (SDI), representing urban poor federations affiliated to SDI.

A FEDUP network presents the Maboloka PHP (housing) project

Shack dwellers ground global debate at Future of Places Forum Sweden

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Adana Austin (on behalf of CORC)

As global cities continue to rapidly expand, how can we encourage equitable growth that would foster safe communities, sustainable development, and an increased standard of living for the world’s urban poor? The Future of Places forum (FoP) features three international conferences, national seminars, books, and reports in preparation for Habitat III. The forum serves as a collaborative platform and training opportunity for researchers, policy makers, advocates, and civil society focused on issues concerning public spaces.

The SA SDI Alliance  representatives joined the Ugandan and Zambian SDI Alliances in attending the third FoP conference in Sweden (29 June – 1 July 2015) that focused on ideas and desires for future urban spaces.

"Informal settlements are fastest growing areas in cities"

“Informal settlements are fastest growing areas in cities”

Why ‘Future of Places’?

The objective of FoP is to provide a platform for a multidisciplinary international discourse on the importance of public space and its potential impact on the New Urban Agenda for the 21st century in response to the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in preparation for the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in 2016. Habitat III presents an opportunity for innovative collaboration (or “international community”) to address contemporary challenge to urbanization.

FoP was organized and funded by the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation. Its collaborative partners are UN Habitat and Project for Public Spaces. The forum serves a network of over 500 organizations and more than 1500 individuals. The first conference took place in Stockholm in 2013, discussing the importance of a “people centered” approach to urbanization. The seconded convened in Buenos Aires in 2014, examining “streets as public spaces and drivers of prosperity”.

Evelyn Benekane (FEDUP coordinator Eastern Cape) and Charlton Ziervogel (CORC Deputy Director) present Flamingo Crescent Upgrading.

Evelyn Benekane (FEDUP coordinator Eastern Cape) and Charlton Ziervogel (CORC Deputy Director) present Flamingo Crescent Upgrading.

Alliance Presence, Community Voices

The Alliance presence at the three-day conference offered a perspective of open spaces in informal settlements and highlighted the grounded experience of shack dwellers and the importance of their voice in global decision-making forums. The Ugandan community leaders gave a presentation on the potential growth within informal market places and market development. Community leaders from South Africa discussed the recent Flamingo Crescent upgrading project, which sparked the interest of urban planners, organizers, and policy makers from cities around the world. The presentation, and discussions that followed, also shed light on the reality that there is often an underrepresentation of shack dwellers in discourses and plans regarding space and inclusive cities. Such initiatives also tend to lack a strong presence in the Global South.

ISN community evaluates co-produced settlement design for community-led upgrading in Mfuleni, Cape Town.

ISN community evaluates co-produced settlement design for community-led upgrading in Mfuleni, Cape Town.

However, as Habitat III approaches, several questions need to be answered in practice if global planning for more inclusive cities is to be successful:

  • How can we ensure that shack dwellers play a foundational role in the articulation of threats, challenges, and potential solutions to urbanization? It is not enough for communities to simply be mentioned in the discussion. Instead they should mold language use to describe their realties.
  • How can we understand and consider the realities of the Global South during international discussions and planning?
  • How do we engage with shack dwellers to rethink concepts of space and access in growing cities globally?
  • How do we bridge gaps between academia, civil society, policy, and communities during the inception and conception of the new urban agenda?
  • How can communities of shack dwellers influence a global advocacy strategy?
  • What indicators should we employ when measuring the success of our efforts?

While the presence of shack dweller representation and community-based movements was lacking at Future of Places, the SA SDI Alliance intends to have a presence at Habitat III so that community leaders are in attendance to speak for themselves and their communities. Habitat III will set the agenda for urban concerns for the next 20 years. It is imperative that these platforms are used strategically and that shack dwellers are not forgotten in that agenda.

Community leaders of Tambo Sqaure informal settlement in Mfuleni , Cape Town present their plans to the local municipality.

Community leaders of Tambo Sqaure informal settlement in Mfuleni , Cape Town present their plans to the local municipality.